HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus which spreads through the body fluids and affects the immune system causing lowering of infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. It is a virus which can lead to AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) Once infected, human body cannot get rid of HIV. HIV can gradually destroy the immune system and advance to AIDS if left untreated.

HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of a person infected with HIV.

There are 3 stages

  • Acute infection occurs 2-4 weeks after infection with HIV
  • Clinical latency also called asymptomatic phase /chronic stage
  • AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)

HIV can be transmitted during any stage of infection, but the risk is greatest during acute HIV infection.

The persons immune system is severely damaged as indicated by a CD4 count of less than 200 cells/mm3.

AND/OR

The person has one or more opportunistic infections.

HIV can spread from person to person via sexual exposure, sharing of needles, blood and blood products transfusion and vertical (mother to child) transmission

Soon after infection with HIV, some people have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, or rash. The symptoms may come and go for a month or two after infection.

More severe symptoms of HIV infection, such as chronic diarrhoea, weight loss, and other signs of opportunistic infections, generally dont appear for many years. (Opportunistic infections are infections and infection-related cancers that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems.)

There is no cure for HIV. However antiretroviral therapy has made it into a chronic manageable illness like Diabetes and Blood pressure.

As yet there is no vaccine for HIV.

The use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines to be taken every day. Antiretroviral therapy can dramatically prolong the lives of persons infected with HIV and also reduce the risk of transmission of HIV.

HIV weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of TB in people with HIV. People infected with both HIV and TB should be treated for both diseases. The choice of medicines to treat HIV/TB co-infection depends on a persons immune status.

It is important for people to get medical care so that the infection does not advance to AIDS which is life threatening and also prevents of transmission of virus to others.

It is important for people to get tested for HIV and know that they are infected as early initiation of treatment has the greatest effect.

Women with HIV should take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to protect their own health.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention option for people who dont have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day. PrEP should always be combined with other prevention options, such as condoms.

PEP is the use of HIV medicines to reduce the risk of HIV infection soon after a possible exposure to HIV. PEP may be used, for example, after a person has sex without a condom with a person who is infected with HIV or after a healthcare worker is accidentally exposed to HIV in the workplace. To be effective, PEP must be started within 3 days after the possible exposure to HIV. PEP involves taking HIV medicines each day for 28 days.

HIV itself plays a role in how cancer grows in people who are HIV positive. HIV attacks the immune system, which protects the body from infections and disease. A weaker immune system is less able to fight off diseases, like cancer. People with HIV often have weakened immune systems, which mean they will have a greater chance of getting cancer.

Here are some reasons why cancer seems to be more common among people with HIV:

People with HIV and AIDS are living longer. HIV medications are helping people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. But their immune systems do not get fully healthy. As people with HIV live longer, their chances of having other health problems, like cancer, increase.